Messi mesmerizes in Barcelona's 4-1 win against Espanyol
ABS-CBN Sports on Dec 19, 2016 10:00 AM
FC Barcelona's Lionel Messi celebrates after scoring during the Spanish La Liga soccer match between FC Barcelona and Espanyol at the Camp Nou in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2016. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
TALES AZZONI, AP Sports Writer
MADRID (AP) — Lionel Messi put on a show in Barcelona's final Spanish league game of the year, scoring once and mesmerizing with his dribbling skills to set up two other goals in a 4-1 win against Espanyol in the city derby on Sunday.
Luis Suarez struck the first two goals and Jordi Alba added another in a victory that left Barcelona three points behind leader Real Madrid ahead of the winter break. Madrid, which won FIFA's Club World Cup in Japan this weekend, has a game in hand.
Messi dazzled the crowd at Camp Nou for the first time when he cleared four defenders outside the area — including by rolling the ball between the legs of one of them — before having his shot parried. Suarez pounced on the loose ball to score his second goal in the 67th minute.
"That was a PlayStation play by Messi," Suarez said. "I wish he had ended it with the goal, it would have been one of the best in the last few years."
A minute later, Messi used his pace and clever dribbles to get past four defenders again, and then passed for Alba to find the net from inside the area.
After nearly scoring following a neat feint that fooled two defenders inside the area, Messi finished the night in style by finding the net from close range after a pass by Suarez in the 90th.
For the second time of the night, the crowd got to its feet and chanted "Messi, Messi."
"In the second half we saw the most spectacular version of our players up front, especially Messi," Barcelona coach Luis Enrique said. "We shouldn't stop praising something just because it happens so many times that it looks routine. We shouldn't get used to it, it's unique."
Suarez, the league's leading scorer with 12 goals along with Messi, had opened the scoring in the 18th, while David Lopez netted Espanyol's lone goal in the 79th.
Messi started the remarkable move that led to Suarez's second goal after a superb run by Andres Iniesta, who had to get past three defenders himself before being able to feed Messi outside the area. Iniesta had also unleashed a spectacular long-range pass to set up Suarez's first goal on the break.
"When we are all playing well as a group, it makes it easier for the individual players to make things happen," Iniesta said. "Leo is crucial for us."
Neymar didn't find the net but was still impressive, creating scoring opportunities and entertaining the crowd with his play. The Brazil striker started the move that led to Barcelona's third goal.
"We played well," Espanyol's Lopez said, "but when you make a small mistake and give them as much as a meter, they will score against you."
The result ended Espanyol's nine-game unbeaten streak in the league, leaving it in ninth place after 16 rounds. It had defeated Barcelona's reserves 1-0 in October to win the Catalan Super Cup, a competition played by Catalonia's top two clubs.
Espanyol's starting goalkeeper Diego Lopez had to be substituted in the 53rd minute after sustaining a severe cut to his right when he collided with Suarez while making a sliding save inside the area.
LEGANES 1, EIBAR 1
Portuguese substitute Tiago "Bebe" Correia scored six minutes after coming on to give Eibar a 1-1 draw at 10-man Leganes.
Bebe equalized in the 76th minute with a shot that deflected off a defender and fooled substitute goalkeeper Diego Barrios.
Starting goalkeeper Iago Herrerin was sent off in the 26th for a bad foul outside the area while trying to stop a counterattack.
Playing in the first division for the first time, Leganes has drawn three in a row and hasn't won in four rounds.
DEPORTIVO LA CORUNA 2, OSASUNA 0
Deportivo La Coruna defeated last-place Osasuna to move four points clear of the relegation zone ahead of the break.
First-half goals by Florin Andone and Ryan Babel secured victory for the hosts, which lie 15th in the 20-team standings.
It was the sixth straight loss for promoted Osasuna, which stayed with only seven points from 16 games.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni